Real Madrid have returned home and they’ve done so with a wacky 5-2 victory over Celta Vigo, a fun way to the celebrate the return to the Bernabéu after 560 days away. Euan McTear was there for Managing Madrid and answers some of the pre-match questions, while posing some new ones too.
1. What would the Bernabéu be like?
There was a game to be played and an important three points on offer, but just being back inside the Bernabéu was an event in itself. By full time, there was a real party atmosphere. But, even before kick off, there was a buzz in the air, especially after the announcer revealed that Real Madrid had defeated Barcelona in the basketball. As the sun went down over a roofless Bernabéu, you could feel the anticipation and even Celta Vigo’s first half goals did little to dampen the happy mood of the 23,000 or so lucky spectators. Even if it’s a very different looking – and, logically, a much dustier – stadium to the one that celebrated a Clásico victory 560 days previously, in the team’s last match in Chamartín, the Bernabéu is back in business. We can say that now.
2. Would Luka Modrić be back?
Oh yes. Luka Modrić was well and truly back. We knew he’d been back in training for most of the past week, but we didn’t know if Modrić would start this game. Not only did he start it, but he played 78 minutes and put on a master class. The biggest non-goal celebration cheer of the night came when Modrić was substituted off to a brilliant standing ovation, one loud enough that you’d have thought there really were 80,000 fans inside the ground. They even chanted his name after the Camavinga goal, applauding the debutant for his effort and special moment, before “Modrić, Modrić, Modrić…” rang around the Bernabéu.
3. Would this be the ‘trickier than most people expect’ game?
Ahead of the season, several members of the Managing Madrid staff made some predictions for a roundtable piece. One of the questions was ‘Name one game on the calendar that you think will be trickier than most people expect?’ and I opted for this one. There were three main reasons that I gave. Firstly, Celta Vigo are good. Secondly, this was coming up just after the September international break. And, thirdly, I thought the first match back at the Bernabéu might be difficult for Real Madrid, who’d be the home team but not necessarily in familiar surroundings. Maybe it was trickier than expected, but Real Madrid put on a show in the second half to tear down my prediction that points might be dropped here. Real Madrid’s internationals coped excellently in difficult circumstances and the home advantage was real.
1. Is Vinícius the Bernabéu’s new hero?
Which player do the matchgoing fans at the Bernabéu love the most? I think it might just be Vinícius. He’s not Real Madrid’s best player or even a guaranteed starter, but the supporters in the stands see the effort he puts in all game long and they see the passion he plays with. At one of the final games before the pandemic, the 4-3 Copa del Rey loss to Real Sociedad, Vinícius played out of his skin and conducted the crowd as Los Blancos chased a comeback. I really felt like the Bernabéu’s love for the Brazilian reached a new level that day and, now, a year and a half later, you can see that there’s really a special bond. It wasn’t very Covid-19 friendly, but that celebration when he jumped into the crowd was epic. That was the image of the night on which the Bernabéu opened up its doors once again.
2. Camavinga is going to be fun, isn’t he?
From Camavinga’s introduction in the 65th minute to his goal in the 72nd, I just sat and watched him specifically. And he was everywhere. He drifted towards the right wing, then he was helping out at left-back, he tracked back to help defend a Celta Vigo counter and then he found himself in the right place at the right time in the opposition box, scoring his first Real Madrid goal seven minutes after coming on. Honestly, I don’t know what his position was supposed to be. His heatmap must have looked like a snakes and ladders board. But, he’s fun. He’s definitely going to be fun.
3. Will the South Americans get a rest after the October international matches?
This match kicked off just 64 hours after Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Peru concluded on Thursday night, a match that Éder Militão and Casemiro played in and that Vinícius was on the bench for. Just a couple hours before that Brazil game, Fede Valverde had played the 90 minutes of Uruguay’s win over Ecuador. Yet all four of these CONMEBOL players started against Celta Vigo, partly because they had to. Each produced some important moments and credit to them for answering the bell. Hopefully they don’t have to put their bodies through a test like this in October, when they’ll face a similar scenario. In fact, because Real Madrid will have a Tuesday Champions League game after LaLiga returns from the October FIFA dates, they won’t be able to play their home fixture vs Athletic Club on the Sunday of that weekend. That match could, therefore, be postponed, like Sevilla vs Barcelona and Villarreal vs Alavés were.